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Network solutions provider Ciena Corporation (Nasdaq: CIEN) believes virtually all fiber backhaul infrastructure in Latin America will have migrated to coherent optical processors within 2-4 years, Ciena's CALA region general manager and sales VP, Fabio Medina, told BNamericas.
At present, Ciena's coherent technology is powering some 200,000km of fiber in the region, Medina estimates, including newly installed terrestrial fiber, and overlays to upgrade undersea and terrestrial fiber that can be as many as 20 years old. However, Medina could not say how this figure compares with total fiber laid in the region.
The company believes this technology has been deployed across some 5.5mn kilometers of fiber globally, almost entirely using Ciena brand solutions.
This kind of infrastructure will go a long way to helping the international transport segment avoid bottlenecks as data services boom on the back of 3G, and eventually 4G in the next couple of years. However, backhaul capacity within a single network is an area that mobile carriers particularly need to address if they are to honor the data speeds that the latest mobile networks promise consumers.
The hot favorite for mobile backhaul is microwave-based carrier ethernet (CE) and vendors like Ciena and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) do indeed see it generating a lot of interest from service providers.
According to Gerardo León de la Vega, NSN's head of marketing and communications in Latin America, the region's 3G operators are primarily focused on rolling out HSPA+ at present, which provides speeds comparable with the current LTE networks, while fixed-line operators continue to accelerate carrier ethernet deployment in metropolitan areas.
In other words, CE is not being deployed specifically for mobile backhaul, but Ciena's Medina is confident that fixed-line operators' CE deployments can scale up to also cater for mobile.
However, León de la Vega believes fiber will always have the edge over microwave in terms of scalability. And while carriers' backhaul investments have traditionally been in the order of 80% microwave versus 20% fiber, he sees demand for fiber moving the ratio to 60-40 as the mobile data boom takes off.
He agrees that carrier ethernet is growing fast, but it is still a relatively recent development, and in the three years since Latin American operators first started migrating their backhaul from frame relay and other TDM data services to MPLS systems, this conversion has only occurred in about 20% of the region's metropolitan areas. Chile leads the field with probably 35-40% of metro networks already migrated, he estimates.
León de la Vega went on to estimate that 60-70% of the region's metropolitan centers will have migrated to ethernet backhaul by end-2013, at which point a moderate amount of the infrastructure will have been enhanced at the layer three level through implementing IPv6.